Can I un-doom my lawn?
November 7, 2017 6:48 AM   Subscribe

We've left our lawn unmowed for way too long. I could mow it short now; mow it somewhat shorter, in stages starting now; or leave it alone until spring. I've poked around here and elsewhere online, but I'm not sure what's best given that it's late in the season, in Massachusetts.

It's more than a foot long, and all flopped over flat. I can mow it if I take it slow and go in all directions. But, I've read that it's bad to remove >1/3 of the length at a time, with recovery time in between. That's reasonable in spring and summer, but I'm guessing it's too dormant to do much recovering now, and that there probably aren't enough good mowing days left. Also, my mower takes more than 1/3 off, even at the highest setting. We do have a weed whacker, but it's not effective with the grass flopped over.

I'm wondering about just leaving it until spring, but I've also read that it's good to trim short before winter because the ground will be wet in early spring. But maybe it would be best for the lawn to keep waiting, and then do what gradual stages I can with my mower's settings? Or I could do a combo -- mowing at the highest setting now, then picking up in spring?

I know the pros would have better equipment, and I can hire if otherwise we're likely to kill off the lawn. But otherwise, I'd prefer the DIY route. There's no problem (for me, the neighbors, the town, etc.) leaving it unkempt. The priority is to ultimately have it be reasonably healthy, with secondary priorities of low-cost and low-effort, in that order. It's never been a picture-perfect lawn, and I don't care, but I'd like it not to be dead.
posted by daisyace to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t think mowing will kill the lawn. Animals eat grass down to the ground and the grass comes back. There is a lot of underground stuff there. I would mow it and leave the clippings on the lawn to go back into the soil.
posted by kerf at 7:15 AM on November 7, 2017

I'd leave it, since that would be easier. All the (above ground) grass will die in the winter anyway.
posted by redorangeyellow at 7:46 AM on November 7, 2017

Based on past experience with this exact thing, I suggest the following:

Mow at the highest setting, then rake off the biggest piles of trimmings. (Our mower does pick up trimmings but was completely foiled by the super long grass.)

You don't have to get every last clipping - some of it is good for the grass - but when I mowed it and just left the big piles of long clippings everywhere they got really matted over the winter and prevented the new grass from growing through in the spring. A similar thing happened the year I left it it to die while it was still a foot long and flopped over. In the spring I eventually had to go out and really aggressively rake off the matted brown clumps before the new grass could grow through it. It was much more work than getting it while it was green.

Once you mow and lightly rake, I think you can leave it be - no need to re-mow at a shorter setting this fall.
posted by telepanda at 7:49 AM on November 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

Go right ahead and mow it, probably in two stages as suggested. If your mower does a reasonable job mulching (chopping it up finely), I'd leave it all on the grass. I mow over all the leaves that land on my grass as well, rather than raking. All good fertilizer for spring.
posted by beagle at 7:53 AM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

At this point, if I were to do one thing only, it would be to cut the grass at the shortest setting for winter. If I wanted to start on a more virtuous path, I’d mow long, and then mow short in another week or two.

But in the spring, your grass will forgive you either way if you take care of it!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:17 AM on November 7, 2017

I'd be wary of leaving the clippings on the lawn. Clippings from a foot of grass would be more likely to do harm than good IMO. In my experience it never decomposes in a reasonable amount of time, and you end up raking it anyway later. Some clippings are fine, especially if the mower has chopped it up pretty well, but you're likely end up with big hairballs of long cuttings that will never decompose.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:24 AM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Taking two passes, mowing long and then mowing short, is mostly good for making sure the mower cuts the grass rather than mashes it down. especially if you use a mulching mower and don't rake.

I think the grass will be fine, no matter what you do. I have a brother in law who parks cars on his lawn during major events at the nearby fairgrounds and after a couple days of cars slipping and sliding and spinning out all over the turf it looks like a muddy swamp, but he's told me that within a week or two all the grass will spring back as if nothing had happened.
posted by ardgedee at 9:20 AM on November 7, 2017

Once you've mowed it, assuming there aren't any bare spots, simply dethatching it will probably give it enough space to breathe and bounce back come spring. If there are bare spots and/or the soil is very compacted, you may need to aerate and overseed as well.

There's a ton of good advice on the topic in old episodes of This Old House and Ask This Old House. (Sad that there are now old episodes of the latter..that means I'm getting old)
posted by wierdo at 11:56 AM on November 7, 2017

Mow it but rake/bag the clippings. Leaving that amount of clippings on the lawn would smother the grass.
posted by Ostara at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2017

Thank you, everybody! Sounds like I shouldn't be too worried about mowing it, and I'll rake up the bulk of the trimmings.
posted by daisyace at 6:58 AM on November 8, 2017

« Older Kiru comics is not Kirtu comics   |   Recommend me a laptop Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.